International conference "Think Green, Go Sustainable" followed by representatives from eleven countries

International conference "Think Green, Go Sustainable" followed by representatives from eleven countries


As part of the International Day of Kranj's International Connecting, the City of Kranj organized the international conference "Think Green, Go Sustainable," where sustainable and green practices were presented. Among the conference participants were mayors, ambassadors, and representatives from sister and friendly cities in eleven countries. The keynote speech was delivered by renowned climatologist professor Lučka Kajfež Bogataj from Kranj.


In 2022, the European Commission selected Kranj as one of the 100 climate-neutral and smart cities to achieve by 2030. Additionally, Kranj was honored with the prestigious title of European Destination of Excellence for 2023. City of Kranj has been increasingly involved in international networking, having signed its first twinning agreement 65 years ago with the city of La Ciotat, after which a park in the city was later named. During the International Day of Kranj's International Integration, the municipality organized an international conference to showcase sustainable practices in the community to representatives from sister and friendly cities and embassies.


The central presentation was given by the acclaimed climatologist, professor Lučka Kajfež Bogataj, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who discussed the path to climate neutrality. She presented the current state of climate change and emphasized the importance of thinking green while expressing her wish for her message to reach conference participants, including mayors and ambassadors. "The recipe is simple; we should have started yesterday, but it won't be too late if we start today."


Various speakers addressed topics related to sustainability during the conference. These included Tomaž Lanišek, head of the Office for Development, Smart Community, and Projects at City of Kranj, who talked about the mission to achieve 100 climate-neutral and smart cities. Klemen Malovrh, director of the Tourism and Culture Board Kranj, presented sustainable tourism and the approach to organizing events in Kranj. Miha Juvan from the Center for Sustainable Mobility explained the concept of the center and discussed sustainable mobility in the city. Matjaž Berčon, director of the Komunala Kranj, spoke about the transition of the company to a circular economy, while biologist Gregor Aljančič from the Tular Cave Laboratory discussed the proteus (human fish) at the Proteus SOS Information Center located beneath the old city center.


The final part of the conference had an international focus. Misa Labarile from the European Commission joined online from Brussels to present the significance of the European Destination of Excellence award that Kranj received this year. She praised the municipal efforts towards sustainability transformation, projects, achievements, planned activities, and communication. This part of the conference also featured presentations from the Turkish city of Muratpaşa and the Hungarian city of Székesfehérvár, both of which showcased their sustainable best practices.


Mayor Matjaž Rakovec emphasized the increasing international networking of the City of Kranj. He highlighted the city's longstanding ties with sister and friendly cities, the establishment of new connections that provide opportunities for development, and various initiatives such as placing busts of Prešeren's contemporaries from around the world in La Ciotat Park to strengthen cultural ties and presenting Kranj's green policy at the Forum of Mayors at the United Nations Palace in Geneva, which garnered global attention. He underscored the importance of international connections for exchanging experiences between cities, learning from best practices that municipalities can implement locally, fostering long-term friendships, mutual assistance, and understanding diversity.


The City of Kranj last organized a major international meeting among sister and friendly cities in 2020, just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which interrupted international collaborations. However, the post-pandemic period strengthened Kranj's commitment to sustainability, leading to numerous projects and significant acknowledgments at the European level. For instance, the European Commission invited Kranj to present itself at the world's largest tourism fair in Berlin, and The Guardian and The Times covered the city in their articles. The purpose of the "Think Green, Go Sustainable" conference was to present examples of good practices in the municipality to the international community and to learn from examples abroad. Mayor Rakovec expressed confidence that every participant at the conference learned something new that would be beneficial for future steps in caring for the environment and achieving climate neutrality. He added that instilling such concepts in children from an early age is crucial, which is why the City of Kranj provides first-graders with reusable water bottles at the start of the school year, teaching them to drink tap water and follow the zero-waste concept. Another successful example is the "Green Penguin" app, which encourages children to live sustainably through various tasks.


The conference also involved high school and elementary school students. During a workshop, students discussed green and sustainable topics related to Kranj's path to becoming a climate-neutral city by 2030. The conference venue, Kovačnica, was decorated with drawings related to the conference theme, contributed by students from five Kranj elementary schools. The conference also served eco-friendly snacks in line with the zero-waste concept. The event took place as part of the International Day of Kranj's International Connecting, which commenced on Thursday with representatives from sister and friendly cities.